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Sat 3 Feb 2007 11:49 PM

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Dubai economy set to treble by 2015

Sheikh Mohammed demands Dubai's GDP rise from $37b in 2005 to $108bn by 2015.

Dubai plans to achieve economic growth of 11% per year to 2015 and almost double its workforce, the Gulf emirate's ruler said on Saturday.

Outlining the next phase of a development drive that has turned the tiny desert emirate into the commercial hub of the world's top oil exporting region, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum said Dubai wants to almost triple its gross domestic product to $108 billion.

The entire UAE, including oil-rich Abu Dhabi, registered GDP of only $104 billion in 2005, $37 billion of which came from Dubai. Singapore's GDP in 2005, by comparison, was $116 billion.

Sheikh Mohammed said he would reach the 2015 target by boosting trade, transportation, tourism and financial services, he said in a speech.

The emirate, home to man-made islands shaped like palm fronds and a ski slope in the desert, draws around 6 million visitors a year, more than any other Arab tourist destination except Egypt. It plans to increase per capita GDP to $44,000 in 2015, higher than that of the United States today, and up from $31,000 in 2005.

Oil accounted for only 3% of GDP in 2006 compared with 10% in 2000, he said.

"We need a new economic plan because the 2010 plan was already exceeded," he said. A goal of achieving GDP of $30 billion by 2010 was surpassed in 2005, when Dubai's GDP was $37 billion, Sheikh Mohammed said.

"We will focus on the strong sectors in our economy including tourism, trade, transportation and financial services."

Dubai's drive to wean its economy off oil, emulated around the Gulf, has been led by state-owned companies such as Emirates, the largest Arab airline, and DP World, the third largest container port operator in the world.

The emirate's economy grew at an average of 13.4% between 2000 and 2005, Sheikh Mohammed said, without giving figures for Dubai's economic growth in 2006.

In 2005, real GDP growth was 16%, according to official figures that were not adjusted for inflation.

Investments in the transporation sector will demand at least AED10bn ($2.72bn) a year to pay for an urban rail system and new roads, Sheikh Mohammed said, putting the emirate's commitment to the sector at AED21.5bn.

The contribution of financial services to Dubai's GDP will more than quadruple to $15bn by 2015, up from $3.4bn now, Omar bin Sulaiman, governor of the Dubai International Financial Centre, told Reuters after the event.

Dubai's workforce will have to almost double to 1.73 million by 2015 in order to keep up with growth, according to a document given to reporters before the news conference.

The emirate will need 882,000 new employees by then, especially skilled workers, it said.

Dubai, like the rest of the region, depends heavily on expatriate workers who make up more than 80% of the UAE's population.

The document also included social development objectives, including plans to boost the role of nationals in the workforce and "improve and update labour regulations."

Full press statement on Sheikh Mohammed's Dubai Strategic Plan